Over the past decade or so, the gaming laptops space has become an increasingly crowded one. Dell’s Alienware was the brand that kicked things off back then, but in the ensuing years we’ve seen the likes of Asus, Acer, MSI, HP and Razer rise to the challenge. Today, players are inundated with choices and can enjoy these machines at a relative snip compared to before. So where does the Asus ROG Strix SCAR Edition stand in all this? Let’s find out.
The SCAR has a brushed metal gunmetal grey cover. It feels nice to run fingers along the gradient, which fades towards the edges and is most prominent along the diagonal centre. The brand’s website says the finish has been “designed to mimic the cold, dark feel of an assault rifle”. Risqué language. The ROG logo on the back emanates a wicked red glow when the laptop is powered on.
This laptop feels heavy, but at the right point – its bottom. It’s annoying when you need to pry open a one of these rather than simply pulling the lid up. However, that’s not at the expense of a flimsy hinge – the lid doesn’t feel like it will go flimsy any time soon. When closed, the laptop is 2.4cm high. At 2.6kg, it’s just about right for a machine with these specs – rivals can be found both lighter and heavier than this.
Display and performance
144Hz is the right refresh rate for this 17.3-inch screen, and Nvidia’s G-Sync technology ensures that whether you’re battling psychotic splicers in the murky depths of BioShock‘s Rapture or peering through the lens of the Widow’s Kiss to scout enemy locations in Overwatch, the action’s always smooth, free of lag, tearing and ghosting. Screen brightness was good enough that I could clearly see dark scenes even with the sun falling across the monitor in a coffee shop.
A GeForce GTX 1070 with 8GB GDDR5 RAM is one of Nvidia’s best GPU configurations, even for a proper gaming rig. The 3ms response time is as close to the sweet spot as should be expected in a gaming laptop that doesn’t cost five figures. Another potentially major pro of this GPU? It supports VR. Thanks to 16GB of DDR4 RAM, the SCAR has no trouble switching between a Chrome browser with 20+ tabs open (including YouTube videos) and The Witcher 3.
For playing online, the GameFirst IV programme can direct network traffic to boost game data bandwidth for faster load times and reduced latency. I encountered few glitches and almost no lag or in-game stutter.
The SCAR comes with dual fans to independently cool its CPU and GPU. Airflow is customisable via the ROG Gaming Centre application, and the computer won’t melt your thighs. It can get a bit loud when running triple-A titles such as The Witcher 3 on the highest settings but thankfully the side-firing 3.5W speakers are able to cover that noise. As with 90 per cent of laptops out there, you won’t get much in the way of clear or powerful bass output, but audio comes out solid on mids and treble output is sharp. The Sonic Studio III program offers preset equaliser settings for listening to music, watching a film, gaming or communication – which is great for hearing angry 12-year-olds swearing at your family after you’ve scored a screamer in Rocket League.
The WASD keys are highlighted to remind gamers of what this machine was built for: first-person shooters. When playing these, the keyboard doesn’t disappoint. It’s easy to switch across keys to reload, chuck a grenade or interact with objects, whatever the game. It may not have the purists’ tactile pleasure of a mechanical one, but the keys here are easy to press and provide a satisfying degree of feedback. They have a slight ingress that makes it easy to individually press each one.
That said, it feels mildly patronising to buyers of a proper gaming laptop to have the WASD keys highlighted so bluntly. The target market being asked to shell out Dh8,499 for a laptop that has been promoted on the basis of its suitability for “the most dedicated players” knows exactly where these four keys are. It’s like Bugatti painting the Veron’s accelerator and brake pedals bright red. However, I could be nit-picking here; highlighting those keys could be a decision of form over function, implying to anyone gazing at this laptop that its owner is a proper FPS person. The up, down, left and right keys are positioned slightly lower than the CTRL key and number pad – something we’ve also seen on rival Acer’s Predator line-up.
Typing is easy and even a pleasure thanks to the backlit keys. It looks particularly great in a darkened room with the keyboard lit up red. The Asus Aura app lets you theme the keyboard aesthetic, with an innumerable combination of colours and hues possible.
If you’re going to be gaming on the SCAR, make sure you’re plugged in. I managed barely two hours of use without playing anything. This dropped to under an hour of the dystopian London-based epic We Happy Few, playing with G-Sync disabled, which happens by default as the laptop is unplugged. Thankfully, the SCAR comes with one of those modern, relatively slim power boxes.
While Dh8,499 is a sizeable amount of dosh to spend on what is essentially a luxury, the ROG Strix SCAR Edition is a machine that’s clearly been built to last. It can run the most demanding AAA titles with ease, has a powerful and efficient cooling system, and looks pretty cool – particularly the keyboard.
There’s a lot of competition in this space, and a range of options for both bigger and smaller budgets, but the SCAR holds its own in the performance stakes.